The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars returned to Bakersfield Speedway for the first time since 2018 on Friday night and offered an unpredictable share of chaos at the front and dramatic storylines at the end.
From a race-altering crash to a record-breaking run, The Greatest Show on Dirt quickly made up for four years of absent action from the California 1/3-mile.
Ultimately, Fresno’s Giovanni Scelzi topped the 35-lapper for his second victory over a span of two weeks in his home state. The KCP Racing #18 pilot used the “I’d rather be lucky than good” method to score his fifth career World of Outlaws win at 20 years old.
The kid they call Hot Sauce was running fourth early on when mayhem struck as top-three runners Spencer Bayston, David Gravel, and Rico Abreu were all collected in a turn-three crash with Sheldon Haudenschild on Lap 8. Scelzi narrowly missed joining the carnage and escaped to assume the lead, knowing he had to finish the job at that point.
“It’s one thing to be in the Dash and put yourself in the hunt, but when something that lucky happens with all three of those guys crashing you have to take advantage of it,” Scelzi said on the rare incident. “These races are hard enough to win as they are, so when you get the opportunity essentially thrown in your lap you have to seal the deal. I’m still baffled at how that happened. I’ve never had something go that far my way that quickly.”
Scelzi’s score didn’t come without an ironic challenge, though, as he was forced to battle Corey Day of Clovis, CA, who would’ve broken Giovanni’s own record for being the youngest winner in World of Outlaws history had he won. In his fourth-ever appearance and second-career start with the Series, Day timed in fourth, ran second in his Heat, made the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash, and capitalized when it mattered most.
The teenage prodigy of two-time World of Outlaws champion Jason Meyers officially led Lap 10 and hounded Scelzi for much of the race while battling off other champions like Brad Sweet & Donny Schatz. He ultimately finished second and joined his father Ronnie Day as a podium finisher with the Series.
At 16 years, 3 months, 27 drivers, Day became the youngest runner-up and podium finisher in the storied 45-year history of the World of Outlaws.
“It’s a dream to be here racing with the Outlaws,” Day said following a standing ovation. “My goal for the past five years or so has to one day beat Gio’s record for the youngest winner in history and this is a step in the right direction. Things definitely fell our way, but nonetheless, I think we proved we can compete with these guys tonight.”
Brad Sweet, 36, was the veteran mainstay keeping one extra young gun off the podium at Bakersfield. He charged from eight-to-third for a third-straight podium finish aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49. Albeit winless, The Big Cat has used unrivaled consistency to take over the points lead for the first time this year as he vies for a fourth consecutive World of Outlaws championship in 2022.
“These kids are getting younger and younger, yet still doing better and better,” the Grass Valley, CA native spoke on the youth movement. “It’s cool to watch this next generation develop, you know I used to be these kids up here. As far as myself, a bit disappointed. We need to figure a few things out be it car or driver and get back to our winning ways. We avoided a lot of carnage, though, so there’s always a positive.”
Rounding out the top-five on Friday night was Lemoore, CA’s Carson Macedo in fourth-place aboard the Jason Johnson Racing, Albaugh #41, and Australia’s James McFadden with his second KSE Hard Charger Award thanks to a huge 22nd-to-fifth run in the Roth Motorsports #83.
Closing out the top-10 at Bakersfield was Donny Schatz (Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #15), Cory Eliason (Rudeen Racing #26), Logan Schuchart (Shark Racing #1S), Kerry Madsen (Roth Motorsports #83JR), and Jacob Allen (Shark Racing #1A).
Beyond the top-10, Spencer Bayston (16th), Rico Abreu (17th), and David Gravel (23rd) went from battling for the win to battling to make it out of the work area following their early-race crash. It was a heartbreak for all involved.
“I didn’t see how it started, but I was already committed and it was just too late,” Bayston, who was leading, said afterward. “You always think you could’ve done something different, but I don’t know if we could have avoided that. It’s just a bummer. One of these front-row starting spots is gonna pay off. We’re doing our part, that win is coming soon.”
“That’s the harsh reality of the World of Outlaws, really racing in general,” Gravel noted. “We just had nowhere to go. We’re really fast. I truly believe we’re the fastest car on tour right now. We’re doing our job, we’ve just been stuck with these two unfortunate events in a row. We’ll come back tomorrow just as prepared and keep fighting. It’s a long year.”
NOS NOTEBOOK (Bakersfield Speedway, 3/25/22)
Giovanni Scelzi’s fifth-career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory brings him to 61st on the All-Time Win List alongside Danny Wood, Johnny Anderson, Brian Paulus, Brad Furr, Danny Dietrich, Brian Brown, and Christopher Bell.
Scelzi (20) and Day (16) made up the youngest 1-2 finish in World of Outlaws history. Any victory for Corey prior to September 18 would break Giovanni’s record (16 years, 10 months, 0 days) as the youngest winner in Series history.
Although not full-time members, Scelzi & KCP Racing are now tied for the most wins (2), have led the most laps (55), and currently sit sixth in the points (-74). Without platinum status, they forgo perks such as incentives, tow money, and points fund, while skipping a handful of races throughout the year.
California natives Chase Johnson (Penngrove) and D.J. Netto (Hanford) qualified for their first NOS Energy Drink Features of the 2022 season at Bakersfield.
David Gravel earned his 91st career Slick Woody’s QuickTime Award and second of the season by circling Bakersfield in 10.754 seconds. Gravel, Scelzi & Abreu also won NOS Energy Drink Heat Races. Bayston topped the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash to claim his second pole position of 2022.
UP NEXT (Sat) – The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will conclude a five-race swing through California tomorrow on Saturday, March 26 with the SoCal Showdown at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, CA. Fans can BUY TICKETS HERE or watch every lap LIVE on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature Results (35 Laps) – 1. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [$10,000]; 2. 14-Corey Day [$6,000]; 3. 49-Brad Sweet [$3,500]; 4. 41-Carson Macedo [$2,800]; 5. 83-James McFadden [$2,500]; 6. 15-Donny Schatz [$2,300]; 7. 26-Cory Eliason [$2,200]; 8. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$2,100]; 9. 83JR-Kerry Madsen [$2,050]; 10. 1A-Jacob Allen [$2,000]; 11. 17W-Shane Golobic [$1,600]; 12. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,400]; 13. 41S-Dominic Scelzi [$1,200]; 14. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$1,100]; 15. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$1,050]; 16. 5-Spencer Bayston [$1,000]; 17. 24-Rico Abreu [$1,000]; 18. 20G-Noah Gass [$1,000]; 19. 88-Austin McCarl [$1,000]; 20. 19AZ-Tanner Thorson [$1,000]; 21. 21-Mitchell Faccinto [$1,000]; 22. 24X-Chase Johnson [$1,000]; 23. 2-David Gravel [$1,000]; 24. 88N-DJ Netto [$1,000]. Lap Leaders: Spencer Bayston 1-8; Giovanni Scelzi 9, 11-35; Corey Day 10. KSE Hard Charger Award: 83-James McFadden[+17]
NEW Championship Standings (After 9/85 Races): 1. Brad Sweet (1,258); 2. Carson Macedo (-22); 3. David Gravel (-30); 4. Sheldon Haudenschild (-44); 5. James McFadden (-62); 6. Giovanni Scelzi (-74); 7. Donny Schatz (-88); 8. Logan Schuchart (-88); 9. Cory Eliason (-96); 10. Spencer Bayston (-140).